Thank you, John Singleton!
As a kid, watching “Boyz N The Hood” was a rite of passage. I remember the rush of excitement as a kid in Mississippi when the VHS tape was placed in the player. The visuals that came from the TV sitting on top of another TV were the black experience seen through the lens of South-Central LA splattered on the canvas. The kid stuck between separate households which leads to being under a single parent household. The loss of innocence as a kid when confronted with death. The cycle of violence, toxic masculinity, police brutality and incarceration is elevated when you live in an environment that is predisposed to not succeeding due to laws that none of the kids in this movie know about. Through all of this, it’s a story of those trying to survive and those trying to get out of the bubble of black trauma and if anyone even cares if they prosper in their community. As far as the father of the movie is concerned, no one will care except us and those that have the power to care, only care if it’s a profit for them.
Who knew that the man that wrote and directed this movie would be a 22-year-old named John Singleton? At 24, he was the youngest person ever nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and the first African-American to be nominated for the award.
John Singleton came at a time during a Black Cinema Renaissance. This Renaissance included Spike Lee, Ernest Dickerson, The Hudlin Brothers, Robert Townsend, and Mario Van Peebles to a name a few. Each director’s vision shaped how I saw blackness through film, but John’s vision is the only I saw as a kid that I envisioned myself in.
Although Spike is the most influential in the way I write and visualize my stories, Singleton’s films always felt like a possible future for me. I always felt that “Higher Learning” prepared me for going to a PWI (predominantly white institution). The feeling of being welcomed around your group friends that look like you but majority of the time when you’re in a classroom, you’re an insider, is real. The neo-Nazi storyline seemed so crazy to critics in the 90s but now looks like prophecy for where the country was heading. I still feel this is his second most underrated film (see: Rosewood) and if you haven’t yet, please watch now.
Thank you for filling my life with your stories, John. Thank you for bringing characters like Furious Styles, Doughboy, Peoples Hernandez, and Melvin to us. Thanks for making the phrase “Want some breakfast?”, “Tigaaa Wooooods”, hilarious one-liners in the black zeitgeist. Thank you for bringing the pain and realness to your movie, “Rosewood.” Thank you for picking up the ball and really jump starting “The Fast and The Furious” franchise. Thank you for being outspoken through your art and never backing down. You inspire me as well as countless black artists and we forever hold you high.
Vita Brevis, Ars Longa